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Insights & advice

How does inflation impact your retirement?

January 2023 – 15 min read

Key takeaways

  • Inflation, which causes a rise in the cost of living, can be challenging for retirees.

  • It can also present challenges to those who are still working and are saving for retirement.

  • Having multiple streams of retirement income, a diversified portfolio, and a retirement plan can all help to protect your retirement savings during periods of inflation.

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What is inflation?

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF),Opens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window inflation is the rate of increase in prices over a given time period, usually a year.

Inflation can be a broad measureOpens in a new window, which looks at the overall price of living in a certain country for example, or it can be calculated to measure a specific cost, such as the cost of a loaf of bread, a haircut or gasOpens in a new window

According to the BDO 2022 Affordability IndexOpens a new website in a new window - Opens in a new window , 78% of Canadians feel their personal finances have worsened due to inflation. But inflation doesn't just impact the everyday cost of living - it can also impact your ability to save for the future.

The Affordability Index also showed that 6 in 10 Canadians saved less for retirement in 2022 than in 2021, with 71% of respondents admitting that saving for retirement is a challenge.

How inflation impacts your retirement

Saving for retirement

Early career

You may shift your financial priorities to deal with the immediate impacts of inflation, such as paying bills and ongoing expenses.

You may have to re-evaluate or create a budgetOpens in a new window to help you reduce your spending, and you may contribute less to your savingsOpens in a new window as a result. In some cases, you may even have to dip into savings to help with the cost of everyday living.

This could be helpful in the short-term, especially if you're struggling. However, stopping contributions to your retirement savingsOpens in a new window even for a short time can have a big impact on how much you'll have in your nest egg when you come to use it.

The money you invest will grow over time through compound interestOpens in a new window; the less you save now, the less interest earned over time, which ultimately means less money in total when you reach retirement age.

When looking at your budget, if you feel you need to adjust to account for inflation, consider reducing your contributions to your personal savings and/or workplace savings plan instead of stopping them completely.

Mid-career

If investingOpens in a new window is part of your financial plan for retirement, you could find that your portfolio is impacted by the stock market. During periods of inflation, consumer confidence drops and interest rates often riseOpens in a new window, and both things can cause stock market volatilityOpens in a new window.

It can be tempting to want to sell assets when the market dips, but the stock market is cyclicalOpens in a new window, meaning it will go through both highs and lows.

Selling during a low period could mean potentially missing out on gains when the prices recover. Instead, you may consider making consistent contributions even when markets have dropped, an investment strategy known as dollar-cost averaging, which can help you buy more shares at a lower price point.

As you still have some time before retirement, there’s time for the markets to correct themselves and to recover any losses your portfolio may have experienced due to inflation. Avoiding emotional investing and ensuring your portfolio is diversified can help you managed periods of uncertainty in the market.

Nearing retirement

If you’re nearing retirementOpens in a new window, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of waiting another year or 2 before stopping work.

On the upside, you could contribute more to your savings while the government takes measures to curb inflation and markets correct themselves. However, you may not want to continue working and maybe keen to start the next chapter of your life regardless of inflation.

Each situation is unique, and the picture of retirement looks different for everyone, so talking this decision through with your loved ones and or your advisor can help you make the best choice for you.

Already retired

If you’re already living on retirement income, there may be other things to consider when it comes to the impact of inflation.

For example, you may already have a plan in place for how long you want your retirement savings to lastOpens in a new window. That plan may have been based on receiving a set income each month to pay for set expenses.

However, if your retirement income remains the same but your expenses suddenly start to rise due to inflation, you may find your money is not stretching as far as you hoped. You may need to re-examine your retirement budgetOpens in a new window and speak to your advisor to see where and if you can make changes.

If you’re continuing to invest during your retirementOpens in a new window, you should consider carrying out a portfolio review to make sure your investment allocations and risk levels remains aligned to your goals.

The stock market can react to inflation - but the good news is, government pensions such as the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)Opens in a new window /Quebec Pension Plan (QPP)Opens in a new window and Old Age Security (OAS)Opens in a new window are indexed to keep up with inflation.

The CPP is adjusted every January while the OAS is adjusted each quarter. While they may not match inflation exactly and may not be enough to live off on their own, these payments will increase as the price of living does to help retirees manage.

If you’re thinking about downsizing in retirement, you may find that inflation works to your advantage, especially if you’re relocating somewhere with a lower cost of living. This is because during inflation house prices often rise, meaning you could sell for a higher price and then move somewhere that costs less.

How to protect retirement savings against inflation

  • Access government benefits

    If you’re eligible, make sure to claim the CPP (or QPP ), the OAS and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)Opens in a new window. These government benefits can help top up other retirement income streams like personal savings and investments and workplace savings.

  • Re-examine your budget

    A great place to start is by seeing what expenses can be scaled back, and if there are any that can be cut out of your budget completely.  You can review bank statements, check your banking app or online accounts more frequently, or perhaps keep a written record of everything you spend over a month. This might help to spot money spent on things like take-out, coffee, subscriptions to streaming services or other online services you may have forgotten about, or other small costs that can quickly rack up.     

  • Continue to save for retirement

    Finally, make sure to keep contributing to your retirement savings, even if it’s a little less each month while you adjust to inflation. Even small amounts can add up over time to help you enjoy the retirement you’ve always dreamed about.

This material is for information purposes only and shouldn’t be construed as providing legal or tax advice. Every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, but errors and omissions are possible. All comments related to taxation are general in nature and are based on current Canadian tax legislation and interpretations for Canadian residents, which are subject to change. For individual circumstances, consult with your tax, legal or accounting professionals. This information is provided by The Canada Life Assurance Company and is current as of date of publication.